Saturday, September 17, 2011

Here's 2000-2010 circulation for nearly all dailies

I've just uploaded a spreadsheet showing weekday circulation figures for 77 of Gannett's 81 U.S. community dailies for every year from 2000 through 2010. It's based on data published by the company in annual reports to shareholders, and expands on earlier circulation posts here, here, and here. (Download all the annual reports.)

The list includes every paper the company owned in 2000 that it still owned at the end of 2010. (So, for example, the spreadsheet doesn't include the Detroit Free Press or the Tallahassee Democrat, which GCI didn't buy until 2005.)

And these are only the U.S. community dailies; USA Today and Newsquest titles aren't included. (But Newsquest is coming next.)

It's interesting reading for circulation junkies, or anyone who wants to track the steady print decline of GCI's U.S. newspaper portfolio.

The top weekday percentage circulation loser between 2000 and 2010? Once more, it's the Courier News in Bridgewater, N.J., which ended last year with 18,437 in circulation, down 55% from 41,354 in 2000.

The Spectrum in Utah's St. George recorded the smallest decline: just 12%, falling to 18,875.

The list is sorted alphabetically by state. The paper that lost the most circulation volume across the period, not surprisingly, is the biggest community daily, The Arizona Republic. It fell by 137,235 copies -- or 29% -- to 332,577 the end of last year.

GCI's bigger tumble
Across the nation, weekday circulation fell 18% between 2000-2009, according to the Newspaper Association of America trade group. (The data on its website only goes through 2009.)

Yet, combined circulation for the 77 GCI papers fell 27% in that period.

The gap between the NAA and GCI declines is all the more striking when you consider their very different mix of newspapers:
  • The NAA counted 1,387 weekday papers in 2009; 38% of them were weaker afternoon editions, which suffered far greater losses than morning editions. 
  • Only 17% of GCI's 77 papers were afternoon editions in 2009, however.
So, why did the NAA group's circulation fall just 18% -- even with all those p.m. papers -- when GCI's fell 27%? That's a question I can't answer.

A big thank you
For this spreadsheet, I'm indebted to a Gannett Blogger who keyed in the data entirely on his own initiative. "I'm an ex-Gannetteer," he wrote, "and had a little time to kill, so I thought I'd expand on your circulation analysis." Having examined his own work, he concluded: "Those are some pretty ugly numbers."


  1. INTERESTING. Thanks to the ex-Gannetteer that did this.

    Now, why do you suppose the Cincinnati Enquirer went up in circulation in 2006-7? That has (obviously) corrected itself.

  2. Yes, thanks to that ex-Gannetteer.

    Pretty damn grim figures. And it didn't have to be that way. We spent the decade alienating our paying customers -- gave them less and less reason to spend money on us. And when the readers didn't spend money to buy the paper, advertisers didn't see reason to buy ads. The recession didn't help matters, but the slide went on all thru the decade. Besides, we gave our information away on the web. Such fools we mortals be. (Or, rather, the mortals in charge. This mortal knew they were chumps.)

  3. If you no longer work for GCI, How about a name or were you worked to obtain this info

  4. Well... I, for one, am glad that Craig and Gracia worked so hard to pare all that "wasted" circulation. I mean, how can you have an elite product when just anyone is reading it? As far as I am concerned, they earned their lavish raises, and then some.


    Craig's Mom

    P.S. WV is "pushlo," as in what our management is doing to our products' circulation. No, I am not making this up.

  5. 7:53, if you're being serious with that post, it's because the Cincinnati Post went out of business around that time.

    And I noticed with those figures that, while circulation was going down somewhat from 2000-2005, they started going off a cliff in 2006. Right around when Gannett started renaming their newsrooms, "Information Centers".

    Brilliant job, Gannett.

  6. The Cincinnati Post published its last edition Dec. 31, 2007.

  7. Any way to either:
    1) Add Detroit in for the 2005-10 period, or better yet
    2) for the whole decade?

    I think the latter of the two may be more telling, to show if they dropped at a greater rate once Gannett got their penny-squeezing claws on them.

    Certainly the ABC and Gannett SEC filings could provide the raw data.

  8. The Asbury Park Press figures are very interesting. Looks like they had a period of actual circulation growth from 2000 to 2003 and then everything began to decline.

    One thing that really leaps out at you is how sharply the numbers drop at every site after the recession (i.e. Second Great Depression) hit. It's clear that the newspapers were no longer valued enough to be kept by many subscribers the minute money started to get tight.

  9. Would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between circulation decline and when Gannett consolidated circulation functions to the COE.

  10. Why not show Det News circulation 2000-2005 and Freep 2005-2010... Gannett owned the news at the time.

  11. Yes, as 12:23 pointed out, things were holding up reasonably well in the first half of the decade and then just started going off a cliff.

    In retrospect, 2005 was a key year for a couple of reasons. First, that was the high-water mark for industry ad revenue: $49 billion. It's less than half that now.

    2005 was also the year that broadband reached 30 percent of U.S. households. Many analysts think that level was a tipping point at which people began turning from print.

    I'd say that those two factors, combined with the rotten economy that began in 2007-08, are key factors in the cliff-dive.

  12. Let's not forget Cincy was forcing bonus days on the subscriber base at more than one per week during their peak. While most properties had about 10 to 15 bonus days per year The Enquirer had more than 50+. Plus they love to play games with grace and expiration dates to keep the deadbeats on the books.

  13. Throw some Tucson numbers in there....


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